Sadie Sink is no stranger to the spotlight. It started with her breakout role as skateboarding cool girl Max Mayfield in the Stranger Things franchise. Then, Netflix tapped her once again to star in its horror trilogy Fear Street, cementing her as the face of our favorite sci-fi thrillers. Following that, Sink added a music video to her résumé, starring in the 10-minute short film Taylor Swift directed for All Too Well. And that doesn’t even include the countless red carpet ensembles she’s dazzled us in, such as the custom satin Prada suit she most recently donned for the season four premiere of Stranger Things and any one of the Chanel looks that seem to be tailor-made for her. But with the arrival of a highly anticipated and record-breaking fourth season of Stranger Things, an exciting Darren Aronofsky film in the works, and the transition into her 20s, there’s no doubt that this moment marks the start of a new chapter for Sink.
There’s undeniably something magnetic about Sink. It’s as if we’re about to witness her springboard onto a new plane of success. Stranger Things may have been the launchpad for her acting career, but now, the screen star is on the brink of something bigger. It also doesn’t hurt that she has all the makings of a bona fide A-lister: a leading role in a chart-topping TV series, contracts with Miu Miu and Chopard, a long-standing relationship with stylist Molly Dickson, and a serious work ethic. Despite initially arriving on to the scene as the new kid in both Hawkins and Hollywood, Sadie Sink is officially here to stay.
Photo:Matthew Priestley; Styling: Gucci dress; We Love Colors tights; Roger Vivier shoes; Swarovski rings; Fry Powers ear cuff and bracelet
On-screen, Sink may do a good job of convincing us she’s just another high school freshman, but in reality, she’s far from your average young adult. “There are things in my life that feel very mature,” she confirmed. “But for the most part, I’m still playing a kid on TV. My mind’s always gonna be there in some ways.” While her peers are preoccupied with their college course loads and what to wear out on a Friday night, she’s off doing press junkets on the other side of the world and wearing Chanel on the red carpet. While they’re indulging in newly legal vices like lottery tickets and cigarettes, Sink is reveling in the freedom of finally being able to live alone and no longer needing a guardian with her on set.
Mature beyond her years, Sink is surprisingly grounded for someone thrust into the spotlight at such a young age. The newly minted 20-year-old sat perched high above Sunset Boulevard in her room at the Sunset Tower Hotel with her copper hair pulled back into a neat ponytail, politely pausing throughout our conversation as sirens bellowed out from the street below. Though her lighthearted energy hardly required any warming up to, this actually wasn’t the first time Sink and I had met. We chatted back in 2019 while she was promoting the show’s third season. This time, however, I felt that I was no longer chatting with a wide-eyed and innocent teenage Sink. She’s now a woman who’s found her footing in the industry and is exuding more confidence because of it.
Photo:Matthew Priestley; Styling: Chanel jacket and belt; Issey Miyake pants; Mikoh top; Larroude shoes; We Love Colors socks; Swarovski necklace and rings; Fry Powers ear cuff
A lot of that confidence has come with time and experience, but some of it has come from feeling part of something bigger than herself. Sink admitted that it took being a member of the Stranger Things family for two seasons before she could shake the feeling of being an outsider. She joined the cast in 2017 for the second season when her character, Max, moved to Hawkins. “Everything was new. Everything was scary,” she remembered. “I was having the time of my life, but it was such a new experience.” Returning to the ST set to film in early 2020 marked a subtle but distinct turning point. “Season four, I definitely didn’t feel like the new kid anymore—like at all,” she declared.
Bonding with castmates Millie Bobby Brown, Joe Keery, and Caleb McLaughlin was certainly part of that, but Sink explained that she felt much more at home because she also was turning 18 right around that time. Ditching a lot of the child labor laws that dictate life on set, it turns out, was transformative. Everything changed once she officially became a working adult. “I wasn’t required to do school on set anymore because I had graduated, and I felt like I had more time to really connect with my castmates. I was also living on my own, which was new and exciting,” she gushed. Spending more time with the cast on her days off naturally brought them closer, which she said she didn’t even know was possible after they had worked together for so long.
Photo:Matthew Priestley; Styling: Miu Miu top and skirt; Roger Vivier shoes; We Love Colors tights; Swarovski necklace; Fry Powers rings
In an opening scene of season four, Max stalks down the halls of Hawkins High, her brows furrowed in a combination of angst and frustration as the synth and drums from Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill blast through her Walkman. Before the rest of the episode unfurls, it is already clear that the 1985 hit will become a fixture on summer 2022 playlists everywhere, a premonition that was confirmed once I logged on to TikTok and saw that it had become a trending audio overnight. The song, and Max’s connection to it, has set the tone for the rest this season.
The Duffer Brothers’ popular series has returned to Netflix queues after a three-year wait to its most impressive audience yet, knocking out hits like Bridgerton for the number one spot mere days after its release. For its highly anticipated fourth season, the kids of Hawkins, Indiana, are returning to our screens to fight the demons that lurk in the Upside Down. Only this time, the danger has never felt so imminent. The monsters they’re up against are much more sinister, and according to Sink, “the stakes are higher now.” In the three years since we’ve watched this crew battle the Mind Flayer, life as we know it has been turned upside down, but even in the few months that elapse in Hawkins, there’s a definite shift. First of all, they’re in high school now, bringing a slate of far more earthbound challenges like bullies and cliques.
Photo:Matthew Priestley; Styling: Ashlyn jacket; Poster Girl dress; Roger Vivier shoes; We Love Colors socks; Swarovski necklace; Bea Bongiasca rings; Fry Powers ear cuff
“Six months can make a big difference physically, too,” Sink explained of the gap that the pandemic wedged into their production schedule. Filming with a group of teenage kids means that even a short break brings about lots of change. “There’s definitely a scene in season four, episode four where we’re in Mike’s basement. Max is going around handing out letters, and then she wants Steve to drive her to a few places. So we exit the basement, and it’s one continuous scene. But as we’re leaving, in the next shot, we look about a year and a half older because we didn’t get back to that scene until the last chunk of filming. You can definitely tell,” she laughed. “Or at least, we can.”
Continuity breaks aside, stepping back into her character felt seamless. “In a way, Max feels like an old friend,” she told me. “When I read the scripts [for this season], I was really proud of her. You see how much of a fighter she really is.” Season four shines a light on a side of Max Mayfield we hadn’t yet seen. Therefore, we’re also seeing a new side of Sink. Max occupies a much greater focus of the plotline, and each time she appears on-screen this season, we’re introduced to an even deeper layer of Sink’s acting chops. “I found that so much of the season revolves around dark and intrusive thoughts that eat away at you,” she explained of Max’s arc. To get into this darker headspace, Sink turned to journaling, which she picked up from her theater-school days as a kid. “It really helped to write journal entries as her and get inside her head a little bit,” she continued. “ There’s so much that she doesn’t tell people that it can be so frustrating. She’s in a gloomy place and definitely isolated herself a lot. Getting into that mindset was a nice challenge.”
Photo:Matthew Priestley; Styling: Melitta Baumeister dress and bodysuit; Roger Vivier shoes; We Love Colors tights; Lillian Shalom necklace; Bea Bongiasca ring
Stranger Things may have put her on the map, but Sink is determined to harness the success she’s found and aim for much broader horizons—despite how easy it can be for Hollywood to box someone like her into a lifetime of roles that fit neatly into one genre. There’s no doubt that joining a tight-knit cast like this, especially at such an early age (Sink joined the show at age 15), was formative, but she’s also looking ahead at what’s to come once the series inevitably ends. “[After Stranger Things,] I’ll have more time to play around and discover more about myself as an actress,” she mused. “I want to tap into different sides that I’ve yet to [explore].”
In fact, we may not have to wait very long to see what Sink is up to next. She’s already wrapped filming on her next project, an A24 film titled The Whale. Directed by Aronofsky—whose dark psychological thrillers include Black Swan and Mother!—this feels like a natural next step for Sink. But she told me that the experience was night and day from filming Stranger Things. The fast pace of a big ensemble show can be chaotic and messy at times, she admitted, but working on this Aronofsky movie was a slow and methodical process that Sink relished. “We got maybe a month of rehearsals before we went into shooting, which I’d never done for a movie before,” she explained. “That was amazing coming from a theater background and something that I’ve missed so much since joining the film-and-TV industry.” Aronofsky was also inspired to direct the film like a play since it was originally written as one by Samuel D. Hunter. “I think it really paid off,” Sink beamed.
Photo:Matthew Priestley; Styling: Prada dress; Roger Vivier shoes; We Love Colors socks; Fry Powers bracelets, rings, and necklace; Bea Bongiasca necklace, ring, and ear cuff; Swarovski ring
Whether she’s experimenting with a new genre, settling into a different kind of role, or trying on a new aesthetic, there’s not a lot that Sink shies away from. And this pliable nature manifests the most in her approach to fashion. “I’m very open to trying anything and just playing around,” she insisted when I inquired about her experience starring in editorial shoots for the campaigns she’s done with Miu Miu and, more recently, Chopard. “I love doing editorial shoots because I get to wear stuff that I don’t normally choose to wear in real life,” she continued. During our cover shoot, she favored a striking green number from Melitta Baumeister. “When I’m doing [an editorial] shoot, nothing’s outside of my comfort zone,” she added. I’m starting to get the idea that Sink is used to pushing the limits of the familiar, a quality that will undoubtedly project her ever further.